Vladimir Putin has endorsed a 31-page “humanitarian policy” that says Russia must “protect, safeguard and advance the traditions and ideals of the Russian world”.
The foreign policy concept of a “Russian world” is one that extremists have used to justify intervention abroad to support Russian speakers, such as in parts of Ukraine.
This means that the idea is now enshrined in official policy, although it was presented as a soft power strategy.
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The new policy stipulated that Moscow should further deepen its ties with the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic – two breakaway entities in eastern Ukraine, where war continues to rage.
He also said he should further strengthen his ties with Abkhazia and Ossetia, two Georgian regions recognized as independent by Moscow after its war against Georgia in 2008.
And the stated policy Russia should increase its cooperation with Slavic nations, China and India, and strengthen its ties with the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
West Slavs are found in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, East Slavs are found in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, while South Slavs are found in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Serbia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of Eastern Bloc countries broke away from the USSR and became independent, but around 25 million ethnic Russians found themselves outside Russia.
Mr Putin called the collapse of the USSR “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” and for years he has been highlighting what he sees as the tragic fate of those millions of people.
It was one of his predecessors, Mikhail Gorbachevwhich failed to prevent the rupture and died aged 91 last week.
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Moscow has continued to regard former Soviet lands, from the Baltic to Central Asia, as its legitimate sphere of influence – a notion strongly opposed by many of those countries as well as the West.
The new policy states that the Russian Federation “provides support to its compatriots living abroad in the realization of their rights, to ensure the protection of their interests and the preservation of their Russian cultural identity”.
He said Russia’s ties with its compatriots abroad have enabled it to “strengthen its image on the international stage as a democratic country struggling to create a multipolar world”.